Post updated September 28, 2018
In 2011, I felt inspired to write this post because there was a push toward “tolerance” of all kinds of girls. Tolerance isn’t a value we should teach. Why on earth should we “tolerate” difference? That makes it sound like “I’m putting up with it” rather than “I accept that there are lots of different kinds of people in this world, and they all have value.” I’m not sure what the word is for that, but that is what we should be teaching, especially to our young girls.
Now, our girls are hearing things like:
- boys will be boys
- girls can’t do that
- don’t be so emotional (or so sensitive)
- boys aren’t accountable at that age
Our girls face a crisis. How can they be expected to be themselves, to be proud of their bodies and their minds, to work hard, to go for their goals… when around every turn, they’re told they’re less than, that they’re the ones who need to be responsible (but not be such a prude), that they’re the ones who need to be accountable for the way they dress and the makeup they wear (but not look so slutty), that they’re the ones who need to walk in groups of girls and carry pepper spray and don’t go out in the dark and don’t drink too much (but don’t be so uptight).
In 2011, when I first published this post, I wrote:
Have you seen the flood of campaigns designed, supposedly, to help young girls feel better about themselves? There’s the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. There’s the fashion world’s inclusion of plus-sized models in London’s runway shows. Then there’s Tyra’s call for plus-sized teens to compete in a modeling competition. And so on.
While these campaigns have their hearts in the right place, in my opinion, they fall so short that they are accomplishing the opposite of their intention. They’re not saying, “Every single girl is equally beautiful.” They’re saying, “Look! We’re flaunting plus-sized models in this one single runway show for plus-sized women! If you’re a plus-sized teen you can compete in a modeling contest, but only against other plus-sized teens! Check out our makeup ad that includes girls with asymmetrical features! We’re calling it ‘real beauty’ because they’re not as pretty as models!”
I don’t want to open up a whole battle of the sexes, but the truth is: Girls have it rough.
And all these campaigns? They’re not helping. In fact, I think they’re probably hurting more than they intend.
My solution to the self- and body-image problem among young girls?
Get a dog!
Despite the fact that I woke up with crazy hair and undereye circles this morning, Emmett gave me lots and lots of wake-up kisses.
Despite the fact that I can not carry a tune and have absolutely no rhythm, Lucas wags furiously as I sing and dance around the house.
Despite the fact that I left the house wearing one black sock and one navy sock, Cooper still had a blast on our walk, totally oblivious to my faux pas. He was just happy to be out walking with me.
They love me equally whether I have makeup on or not, whether I’m wearing a dress or sweat pants, whether I’m happy or sad. And I’m in my 30s, so I’d like to think I’m happier in my own skin than I was in my teens!
I know this is wildly simplistic. Not every family has the time or money to invest in a pet. But at the same time… why not?
Who better than a kissing pup to make a girl feel special when her best friend, inexplicably, refuses to sit with her in the cafeteria? Or greet her with a wagging tail when she gets cut from the volleyball team? Or the popular girls make fun of her jeans?
Instead of these campaigns that say, “We’ll acknowledge you because of your flaws!” a dog simply says, “I love you only because you’re you!”
I will add today, in September 2018:
A dog stands by you. A dog encourages you to walk (or run) to be strong and healthy. A dog licks away your tears, and a dog thinks you’re perfect every single day, no matter what you look like or what you do, no matter if you felt brave and strong to stand up for yourself or hid in the girls’ bathroom because you didn’t feel brave or strong that day.
A dog knows you’re beautiful because, even though a dog can’t tell if you’re wearing the right clothes or makeup or if you have your hair or brows done, a dog knows who you are, and that’s where your beauty lies.
Yes, as I said back then, it’s a simple solution. But it is a solution.
Having someone to come home to after a rough day at school, someone to confide in who definitely will never tell your secrets, someone to hug when you need comfort, someone to play with when you feel silly, someone to rely on you for attention and care, all those things add up and help build pieces of a girl’s self esteem.
Parents, get your girls active. Cultivate in your daughters strength in body and spirit. Give them responsibility to care for your pets so that they can learn kindness and caring for others, along with the understanding that they’re an important, contributing member of your family. Yes, you too provide your kiddos with unconditional love, but know that they often need someone other than you for comfort and confidence–and that’s OK.
Every girl, every single girl, needs to feel loved. She needs to feel believed in. She needs to feel that it’s OK to be confident and brave, but also vulnerable and sensitive. She needs to know that it’s OK to be exactly who she is, and all those things? She can get from having a very best furry friend to be happy to see her each day.
Every girl needs a dog.